UNDP People looking at UNDP banner on the street AIDA
Photo: UNDP/Morales

Artificial Intelligence Powers UNDP’s Evaluation Solutions

An Innovative Solution from UNDP in Partnership with UNICC and Amazon Web Services Helps Unlock Decades of Experience for Institutional Learning

Independent evaluation offices play a major role in gleaning and sharing years of evaluation knowledge and experience for UN Agency programme delivery. This is never an easy task. Finding valuable information is time-consuming, methodical and often manual, with multiple sources and document types to process.

Luckily, there are new data and analytics solutions and approaches out there to help solve the problem of streamlining evaluation data collection, aggregation, review and planning for existing and new programmes. In partnership with UNICC and Amazon Web Services, UNDP’s latest cutting-edge solution streamlines the scanning of thousands of evaluation documents to understand keywords, context and intent using artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, returning meaningful answers to complex questions.

Making better use of data – with approaches grounded in UN values and human rights – is integral to our future and service, so that everyone, everywhere nurtures data as a strategic asset for insight, impact and integrity, to better deliver on our mandates for people and planet.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

This innovative solution, based on AI and machine learning, is publicly-available through UNDP’s portal, AIDA (Artificial Intelligence for Development Analytics).

AIDA – A collaboration between UNDP, UNICC and Amazon Web Services

The launch of AIDA marks the IEO’s latest drive to stay ahead of the digital curve and to support UNDP’s role as a trusted development partner in this time of rapid change. Using the designated search portal, AIDA enhances accessibility to evaluations information to everyone in UNDP. Making informed decisions is just a click away.

AIDA uses AI and machine learning for quick and easy access to the digital treasure trove of evaluations stored in UNDP’s Evaluation Resource Centre. Before AIDA, the process for extracting evidence from evaluation reports was manual, resource-intensive and time-consuming.

Credit: UNDP

AI-based solutions ‘learn’ from experience. They improve themselves, become smarter with each annotation, and work with feedback from human evaluation partners who apply experience and insight to tune the tool further and increase the value of the AI search returns. Built-in intelligent search modalities draw out meaningful and comprehensive results, such as keyword, semantic, contextual and cognitive searches.

The concept of the human-in-the-loop was embedded in the design. The human in the loop provides meaningful insights to machine learning outputs and adds human control, introducing explainability, a set of processes and methods that allows human users to comprehend and trust the results and output created by machine learning algorithms. This makes for an optimized feedback loop within the technology solution.

The AIDA portal is accessible to anyone who wants to learn from past evaluations to improve their programme design and delivery. The IEO emphasizes AIDA’s value in formulation and design of new programmes, offering lessons and building on successes from country programmes worldwide for the optimal delivery of new projects in the planning stages.

Credit: UNDP

What is AIDA?
AIDA is a cloud-based AI tool that makes evaluation evidence accessible through a portal that allows users to search for relevant information related to specific themes from the UNDP’s evaluation archive. AIDA brings analysis and assessment, by technology and its human users, to years’ worth of information, for meaningful impact – in minutes rather than weeks or months of methodical searches.

AI-powered searching is a powerful tool that continues to learn and gather lessons. The more people use it, the more it homes-in on relevant answers. It serves equally whether the user is summarizing programme findings for an evaluation or designing a new programme. The tool identifies lessons from documents, grouping them on a dashboard under appropriate countries, sectors, themes, modalities and timescales. It displays commonly-appearing lessons and suggests related lessons which users can explore for different contexts and programmes.

This advanced analytics solution leverages Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, with predictive modeling, simulation and forecasting that allow for optimized document analysis, to extract findings, recommendations and conclusions from evaluation reports. Customization is available for specific requirements. At this stage, the solution is applicable to English language content only.

The launch of the AIDA portal marks the latest drive for UNDP to stay ahead of the digital curve, in support of its role as a trusted development partner in this time of rapid change.

Using AIDA, it’s a cinch to extract data from evaluations and make sure that information is available to everyone, at any time, in any place, for insights and informed decision making for programme delivery across the globe.

Woman looking at screens with UN´s Umoja data.
Photo: UN

SAP ERP Support Grows to Include the UN’s Umoja ERP Support Services

UN’s Umoja ERP Joins UNICC’s SAP Support and Hosting Services together with WFP, CTBTO, UNJSPF and UNRWA

Umoja (‘Unity’ in Swahili) is a single, global Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) solution that enables efficient and transparent management of the United Nation’s financial, human and physical resources and for improving programmatic delivery.

As a catalyst for business transformation, UN’s Umoja is improving financial and administrative operations and program delivery with a potential to improve the efficiency and the overall effectiveness of the organization. Umoja provides support to the UN Secretariat Offices and Departments in Headquarters in New York and around the globe with three major Offices outside of Headquarters and five Regional Economic Commissions.

In addition to providing support for the day-to-day work of staff and managers, Umoja has helped manage the Secretariat’s liquidity challenges and maintain business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now a complete end-to-end ERP solution, replacing outdated legacy IT systems and manual processes. As a key enabler of the Secretary-General’s United to Reform and Data Strategy initiatives, Umoja supports the UN’s journey to serve the peoples of the world.

UNICC has been a long-time provider of SAP ERP hosting services for WFP as well as several other Agencies, including CTBTO, UNJSPF and more recently UNRWA. The UN requested UNICC to set up a first Umoja sandbox environment more than 10 years ago, which included 30 systems in UNICC’s Data Centre in Piscataway, New Jersey. A year later they recommended a migration of those sandbox systems into their, at the time, new data centre in Valencia. During the following year, they launched a global tender for hosting services – and they finally changed their SAP provider who was supporting them until the end of 2021, with the contract expiring on 21 December.

UNRWA Success Story Leads the Way

In the summer of 2021, UNICC had the chance to meet with UN’s Umoja’s recently appointed executives and presented UNICC’s SAP practice, experience and success stories, such as SAP hosting services for WFP, CTBTO, UNJSPF and UNRWA. The recent UNRWA success story resonated. UNRWA’s SAP ERP was hosted in the same Umoja infrastructure as the UN, supported by the same providers until two years ago. In 2019, UNICC took over as the only SAP Basis support for UNRWA, with systems kept hosted where they were, and after a successful year, UNICC migrated and took over their underlying infrastructure at the UNICC data centre also in Valencia.

Following those meetings, at the beginning of September 2021 UNICC was able to share final proposals with Umoja as the outcome of several iterations. The proposal was finally signed in mid-November 2021 with the request to start the service in one month, on 22 December, although the proposed strategy in the signed agreement included a three-month hand-over project.

UN's Umoja on laptop screen

Moreover, during the first days, UNICC discovered additional challenges as the actual Umoja landscape to be handed over and managed was much more complex than expected: according to the preliminary data, the landscape was composed by about 350 systems/servers, while UNICC finally had to take over a landscape with over 500 systems/servers.

UNICC worked night and day, including weekends, to re-shape the hand-over project for the compressed timeline and the increased landscape size, and the system finally went live on 22nd December 2021 as requested to meet Umoja’s constraints. The service has been running for the first months still in a kind of mixed project/service mode with fine-tuning services still underway.

So far UNICC has not only “kept the lights on” but has already started performing several systems upgrades from the second week of our entry in service.

The organization supports the Umoja environment with 2nd and 3rd SAP Basis level, 22 hours a day “in the office,” five days a week, plus 24×7 stand-by support. The UNICC SAP Basis team is composed of resources located both in Europe (Rome and Geneva) and in India, covering three shifts a day.

UNICC is confident that it can bring its long-term SAP practices and expertise to help Umoja in optimising their environment, the way it is performing, managed and supported, for example by introducing UNICC service management processes as well as introducing some automation.

Moreover, UNICC believes that the increased portfolio of SAP ERP services will have a greater value for all of our Clients and Partner Organizations that can further benefit by the increased shared services, which can offer deeper, more expert SAP services for economies of scale across the UN ecosystem.

Conference Forinvest 2022 auditorium in Valencia
Photo: Forinvest/Marcos Soria

UNICC To Present on FinTech Cybersecurity at European Forinvest 2022

Two Cybersecurity Workshops to Shed Light on Risk in the Current Business Landscape

UNICC will participate in two cybersecurity panel discussions during the Forinvest Fintech conference on 4 and 5 May 2022 at the Feria Valencia Exposition Centre in Valencia, Spain.

Tima Soni, Chief, Cybersecurity Division, UNICC, will introduce the event that includes workshops from members of her team.

Forinvest, Spain’s biggest finance and networking event, is a combined forum and trade fair that brings together the most extensive offerings related to the world of finance, from financial products and services, Investments and Insurance to technology-based solutions for the industry. Forinvest includes a comprehensive trade exhibition and an extensive programme of educational initiatives.

A recent IBM report notes that financial service providers are the most targeted by criminals over the past three years. While Fintech firms do not have to adhere to as rigorous regulations as their legacy banking counterparts, they still must take their security seriously. Proactive cybersecurity services such as threat intelligence and risk monitoring, incidence response and forensics, penetration testing and vulnerability management offer Fintech businesses ways to decrease their risk in the digital world.

IBM’s key findings included that #1 threat was ransomware, manufacturing was the second most-attacked industry, 35% of attacks leveraged exploitation of vulnerabilities, COVID-19 provided opportunities for threat actors, cybercriminals are moving to the cloud and that Europe was the biggest geographic target.

Cyberattacks impact more than just money, such as breaching required compliance standards, affecting data protection or damaging organizational reputations. As the new normal of hybrid work takes shape, all organizations will need an always-connected defensive posture and further definition on what business risks remote users pose to organizational security.

The UNICC Cybersecurity team, together with other team members of the panel, will take up these questions and more.


Forinvest Cybersecurity Panel One – Cybersecurity and Organized Crime
A Verizon report likewise cites a rise in financially-motivated cyberattacks, with organized crime actors continuing to be Number One. Panel members will discuss how financially-motivated attackers are leveraging publicly available information to target organizations.

  • What are the objectives of financially motivated attacks?
  • What are the most common attack vectors?
  • How are attackers leveraging publicly available information of companies and people to prepare attacks against employees
  • What can be put in place to detect attacks in early stages?
  • Why brand protection is required to protect against financially motivated threat actors?

Forinvest Cybersecurity Panel Two – Protect the Extended Perimeter – Teleworking Risks
The second panel will address concerns raised by an ENISA threat landscape report, affirming that one of the more enduring developments from the COVID-19 pandemic is a shift to a lasting hybrid working model. Cybersecurity threats related to the pandemic and exploiting the “new normal” are becoming mainstream. This trend has increased the attack surface and, as a result, we have seen a rise in the number of cyber-attacks targeting organizations and companies through home offices.

Panel members will detail how effective cyber security programs can protect against cyber threats related to new, hybrid workplace routines, with updated governance frameworks to support the new working model and new controls that are not limited to physical locations and with extended perimeter protection. They will also address training users to make them active defenders of their organizations and suggest new approaches to cybersecurity monitoring to face the new cyber threats.

Forinvest conference 2022 flyer

UNICC is a proud partner of local and national institutions in Spain, regularly sharing cybersecurity knowledge and insights. UNICC is hosting a Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence at its locations in Valencia, with a growing workforce of more than 60 cybersecurity experts.

UNICC offers wrap-around cybersecurity support, including governance, a threat intelligence sharing network and a whole spectrum of cybersecurity operational components. Its Common Secure Operations Centre (CSOC) in Valencia provides comprehensive monitoring and real-time views into systems, networks and security status, validating the health of an organization’s security posture, with the ability to mitigate risk through executing agreed protocols and processes when issues arise.

UNICC supports over 45 UN Agencies and related humanitarian organizations with cybersecurity services. UNICC is ISO 27001-certified and is a 2020 and 2017 CSO50 cybersecurity award winner.

UNDP Cambodia/Buth

New Partner Organization: UNDP Cambodia

UNICC is pleased to announce that UNDP Cambodia has been accepted as a UNICC Partner Organization. UNDP Cambodia is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (with UNDP headquarters in New York). UNICC’s Business Relationship Manager for UNDP Cambodia is Anu Senan.

About UNDP Cambodia

UNDP has been in Cambodia for more than 50 years now, operating from 1958 to 1975, resuming in a limited capacity in 1980 contributing to emergency relief operations, and formally establishing its offices in Phnom Penh in 1994 with the signature of the Standard Basic Assistance Agreement (SBAA). UNDP is currently implementing a new Country Programme Document 2019-2023, which has been endorsed by the Letter of Agreement between the Country Office and the Royal Government of Cambodia.

UNDP aims to enhance the government’s ability to deliver public services to the population in an efficient, effective, equitable and accountable manner, to consolidate a participatory democracy with a responsible civil society and to create an enabling environment for inclusive growth, private sector development and sustainable use of natural resources. UNDP supports Cambodia to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Photo: IPPC Secretariat

IPPC ePhyto Solution, Four Years In

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat, with continuous support and expertise from UNICC, has developed an ePhyto solution to bring plant-protection phytosanitary certification for international trade into the digital era. The ePhyto solution, now four years underway, allows a growing number of countries to electronically exchange ePhytos with each other, quickly, accurately and at low cost.

EPhyto is short for “electronic phytosanitary certificate”. All the information contained in a paper phytosanitary certificate is also in the ePhyto. The risk of loss, damage or fraud to ePhyto certificates is greatly reduced, as is the administrative burden on both border agencies and business. The collaborative nature of the project paves the way for countries to exchange other types of data with trading partners.

Countries can either produce ePhytos and exchange them with the UNICC ePhyto Hub directly via their own national platforms or they can use the IPPC’s web-based application, the General ePhyto National System (GeNS). Benefits of a globally harmonized approach through the ePhyto Solution:

  • Globally harmonized approach for for electronic phytosanitary certification (ePhyto) in accordance with an adopted International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) 12 Phytosanitary Certificates
  • Reduced potential for fraudulent certificates
  • Reduced data entry and validation activities by national plant protection organizations (NPPO) improving efficiencies
  • Improved security in the transmission of certificates when compared with paper certificates
  • Efficiencies in arrival and clearance of plants and plant products at the point of entry
  • Reduced delays in receiving replacement phytosanitary certificates when required
  • Use of existing systems in facilitating electronic certification reduces development costs
  • Reduced bilateral agreements required for direct NPPO to NPPO transfer of electronic certificates
  • Potential to link with the World Customs Organization “Single Window” initiative and to harmonize codes and processes.

Four Years of ePhyto – A Technical Review

The ePhyto Hub was first released in December 2017. As we celebrate four years of the ePhyto solution, looking at its journey helps us to understand its growth and demonstrates its importance in facilitating paperless trade between countries.

Starting with four pilot countries in 2017, today there are 62 countries who are successfully exchanging Phytosanitary Certificates through the Hub, abandoning point-to-point connections and adopting the standards, with over 40 more countries who have registered and are at different stages in their implementation. The system in the last year has seen a monthly average of ~107,000 messages processed, with 92% of them confirmed as readable information from the destination NPPO systems.

Image


Figure 1 – Traffic growth over the years (green is exchanging; orange is testing).

The IPPC is the product owner and the ePhyto Steering Group (ESG) is the agile team supporting various implementations and actively participating in the innovation and scaling of the solution. The team has been getting valuable feedback for continuous improvements, enhanced functionalities and new features through its stakeholders (NPPO focal points), user community groups and implementation partners. This active participation of the various stakeholders is summed up below as 7 key product principles and features supported by as many as 40 big product releases over the last four years.

  • Flexible ePhyto Schema Mapping – The current ePhyto XML definition is built on top of the existing UNCEFACT schema, using mainly the SPS Certificate component. Due to ongoing efforts by ESG members Christian Dellis and Walter Alessandrini, as well as the UNICC team, developing countries find ePhyto data much easier to use. This focus on specific ePhyto needs has reduced potential misinterpretations, while at the same time leaving enough flexibility to quickly ramp-up integrations of new countries. By moving from a point-to-point and bi-lateral logic protocol to a standardized and practical approach, the ePhyto System has eliminated most problems associated with paper Phytosanitary certificates.
  • Comprehensive API and On-boarding Guides – Fortunately, the Hub web services API document and on-boarding guides were ready from day one, which meant all countries had the information they needed to join the Hub, use web services, configure their access and independently integrate their systems. Because of the leveraging of client code samples of the API document, experienced software development teams have been able to send test messages, which are then validated, piloting integration within the Hub test environment.
  • Automated Validation of Messages – With the introduction of the Validation Tool in July 2018, the quality of exchanged messages has greatly improved. Hub Web Services, which is now integrated into many countries’ systems, provides validation of the ePhyto System and reports on issues that previously caused reading problems for receiving countries. It gives constant feedback to sending countries on how to improve the quality of a message. Countries using Hub Web Services can automatically communicate error messages and/or warnings to each other.
  • Asynchronous/Message-driven Architecture – The Hub web services are built on RedHat JBoss using ActiveMQ for the most demanding operations. The system design supports scalability and capacity to handle high volume of messages. Many a times the monitoring systems have highlighted heavy loads which the system has effectively handled without any glitches. The use of queues and asynchronous processing, combined to multi-site replication, has been critical to balance the computing load, avoid any data loss and maintain the availability of the system.
  • Backward-compatible Releases – None of the incremental releases have been breaking existing operations. By providing backward compatibility, countries are confident during changes and have sufficient time to align their systems with the enhancements. Releases are published to the testing environment for user validation and confirmation. It is ensured that changes to Hub Web Services and ePhyto schema mapping are always backward compatible.
  • Implementation of the Generic ePhyto System (GeNS) – The GeNS is the second important tool to support the ePhyto solution especially in countries who do not have their own national systems. The progressive implementation of the GeNS in many countries has been another key drive for ePhyto adoption. The GeNS is currently used live by over a dozen countries and evaluated by many others for adoption. The GeNS has also helped in many ways like supporting countries without an electronic system, standardization of phyto sanitary certificates, centralized management and making business processes efficient. A dedicated post needs to surely follow to elaborate and emphasize the utility of GeNS.
  • Single Windows and “Channel” Connections – The implementation of Channel distribution to support multi-countries delegation, multi entity connections and envelope forwarding is considered a breakthrough feature. Early adoption of ePhyto by EU countries has played a significant role, increasing overall traffic across the globe. Subsequent enhancements to support electronic signatures (eSeals), implemented by GeNS and available to all countries as part of a standard setup, have been another motivation for on-boarding countries to use GeNS. The integration of the Hub with the European Union system (TRACES) helps handle the sending and receiving of phytosanitary certificates for 26 EU countries through a single source.

IPPC-UNICC Teamwork

This journey would not have been possible without the support of many key stakeholders and members from the product delivery team, also acknowledging the support from the IPPC Secretariat and members of the ESG.

The ePhyto program is a successful example of global digital transformation and an important tool supporting international plant trade.

Photo: UNICC/Thomsen

UNICC Helps Secure UN Organizational Digital Identities with Common UN PKI Services

UN Agencies are striving to improve their digital identity management systems. As the digital business and technology shared services hub for the UN, UNICC is there to provide its expertise in securing the right solutions for each UN Agency’s particular needs.

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a framework that enables the integration of various digital identity services based upon cryptography, which is the use of secure communications techniques that allow only senders and intended recipients of messages to view message contents. The objective is to provide confidentiality, integrity, access control, authentication and most importantly, non-repudiation (ensuring that no party can deny that it sent or received a message via encryption and/or digital signatures).

PKI represents a combination of encryption and authentication, making online communications trustworthy, within a secure infrastructure.

People use ID cards (non-driver’s/driver’s license, passport, employee ID badge) as a means to prove their identity. A certificate has the same basic purpose in the electronic world except for a difference: certificates are issued to people, computers, software packages or to anything to show proof of identity.

UNICC Partner Organizations, through the UNICC Management Committee, committed to an R&D project to explore PKI shared services for subscribing UN Agencies. UNICC proceeded to develop a solution, also with inputs and collaboration from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Eventually, a UN system-wide PKI service was developed that would:

  • Provision the Root Certification Authority for the UN system.
  • Provision subordinate Certification Authorities for UNICC Clients interested in participating.

As a result, UNICC is now managing the root Certificate Authority (CA) for the UN system, which pertains to active subscribers and any other UN Agencies to leverage PKI services.

UNICC’s Common UN PKI Service
The Common UN PKI service is a combination of authentication and encryption to make online communication more secure for UN Agencies who subscribe to the service. The system relies on machines that issue the certificate and the people that manage them (for the UNICC service, this is the UNICC Security team and UN Agency focal points). For a certificate to be granted, the system requires a name, country, city, location, contact person and the organization to which the person belongs. Certificates authenticate the senders or recipients of information.

PKI requires several different elements for effective use. A Certificate Authority is used to authenticate the digital identities of the users, which can range from individuals to computer systems to servers. Certificate Authorities prevent falsified entities and manage the life cycle of any given number of digital certificates within the system.

UNHCR, WTO and UN Women have subscribed to UNICC’s Common UN PKI service, aiming to protect communications between each organization’s servers (their websites) and the clients (the users). With these PKI systems in place, Partner Organizations can ensure that their data and information are thoroughly protected from cyber threat and breaches. UNICC’s security team is proud to manage this project to continue the work of keeping UN colleagues safe online.

Just like people’s IDs, the certificates are issued by a source that the server knows and trusts so as to accept a machines’ certificate as proof of its identity, providing trust and security for all message transfer across organizational infrastructures for each of the subscribing Agencies.

Photo: FAO

FAO Embraces Robotic Process Automation for Vendor Sanctions Screening

Shared Services Centre Leads with Multiple Automation Use Cases for Shared Services, Financial Accounting, Budgeting, Information Systems and Human Resources

The FAO Shared Services Centre (SSC) is embracing robotic process automation (RPA), freeing up colleagues to focus on value-added work: a prime example of people, process and technology working together.

The SSC has realised the value of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology that provides a software robot (or ‘bot’) to mimic human behavior for manual, repetitive tasks, with the advantage that it can work much faster and more efficiently performing labor-intensive tasks and ultimately eliminate costly human errors.

The SSC finance team has been working on a sanctions screening project with UNICC, whereby the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution optimises screening of FAO’s vendors against sanctions lists of the UN Security Council, the US Treasury, the EU and the World Bank.

Robotic process automation works best with rule-based, regular tasks that require manual inputs. The SSC processes several thousand transactions on a monthly basis (staff entitlements, invoices, payments, payroll, travel expenses, asset disposals etc.) and by way of automating certain elements of these administrative processes, the Centre can generate efficiencies and contribute to better customer experience. Deploying RPA frees up high-value resources to concentrate on more value-added work.

John Kidd, Chief, SSC, FAO
Photo: FAO

The Joint Sanctions Screening Solution speeds up the vetting process and improves efficiency of vendor records management, eliminates human errors in analysing and reviewing data and reduces operational risk.

The bot has already completed a full screening of FAO’s master database of over 260 000 active vendor records. The bot compares FAO’s data against the sanctions lists, marking any potential matches. It screens parties with whom the organization has a commercial relationship, funded partnership, other financial relationship as well as any other cash recipients and beneficiaries.

Zoltan Antal, SSC, FAO

During the implementation phase of this solution, the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution has demonstrated the advantages of inter-Agency collaboration as UNHCR and WFP had shared their insights on RPA technology.

The introduction of the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution is welcome and will contribute to an increased level of transparency. This solution will ensure compliance to the international sanction policies by ensuring FAO vendor master data records don’t contain any sanctioned vendors.

Motohiro Ogita, Chief of Procurement, CSLP, FAO

Given these success stories at the SSC, what will the world of work look like in the future? John Kidd was pleased to express his ideas, “We’re planning to roll out robotics to other administrative areas. The potential is high and the team has started to build a pipeline of suitable processes. I am happy that several colleagues have expressed their interest and are now learning the technology.”

It was very helpful to cooperate with sister agency colleagues before embarking on this journey. We realised that we would need a big clean-up in the beginning requiring time and efforts, that we should adopt a strategy that suits our organization (full database screening vs. daily screening of new records) and that we should set our internal rules about how closely and frequently we monitor. Now well advanced in the world of robotics, we were pleased to share our experience with UNICEF undertaking a similar path.

Dora Ronai (CSFR), SSC Team Lead, FAO

An Innovative, Shared Solution from the UN Digital Solutions Centre
The UN Digital Solutions Centre (UN DSC), operated in partnership by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), supported by the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC), developed the Joint Sanctions Screening solution using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to streamline repetitive, manual and inefficient vendor screening processes.

High standards of integrity and compliance mean zero tolerance for fraud and corruption. The UN minimizes fraud by imposing sanctions on potential vendors, partners and their employees.

Each UN organization maintains its own and ever-changing vendor lists that need to be checked against numerous international sanctions lists. The vetting process is often manual, time-consuming and comes at late stages of procurement, leading to errors and duplication of efforts.

UNICC RPA Hyper-automation Centre of Excellence

RPA and hyperautomation technologies – what UNICC calls ‘RPA+’ – allow us to call on a digital workforce to help us gain immediate operational efficiencies and get closer to business stakeholders and beneficiaries on the ground. Ultimately, RPA+ helps Clients and Partner Organizations build better to deliver on their mandates.

Nagesh Vepa, Head, Hyperautomation Solutions, UNICC

UNICC has been further fine-tuning many of these new technologies for its Clients and Partner Organizations. Its Robotic Process Automation (RPA+) Centre of Excellence has over twenty Clients, 60+ automation solutions automating billions of manual transactions, delivering multiple consulting engagements, solution implementation and end-to-end managed services.

This eventually translates to giving back thousands of valuable hours to business users and expanding business functions and value within their domains (Finance, Compliance, Travel, HR, Procurement, ICT, etc.).

Photo: UNICC/Cadinu

UNICC Commits to Carbon Neutrality, Beginning in 2020

Greening UNICC and the UN Family with Green Technology

UNICC has launched this year its collaboration with UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Greening the Blue, an initiative to engage and support the UN system in the transition towards greater environmental sustainability in the management of Agency facilities and operations.

UNICC Sustainability

In line with the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations System, 2020-2030, designed to raise the UN system’s ambitions on sustainability and to ensure greater system-wide coherence, UNICC commits to measure and improve its carbon footprint and become carbon neutral as of 2020, via carbon offsets using the voluntary UN Carbon Offset Platform.

The UN System is a leader in integrating environmental and social sustainability considerations across its work in a systematic and coherent way, practicing the principles that it promotes and leaving a positive legacy.

Strategy for Sustainability Management in the UN System, 2020-2030

One of the main focuses of UNICC’s sustainability efforts are its four data centres, all of which are actively monitored and reporting on emissions. Factors such as green procurement practices, the use of energy-efficient products, sourcing sustainable energy, efficient cooling solutions and even balanced server placements in the racks all contribute towards green data centres.

Currently all of UNICC’s centres are classified as Efficient or Very Efficient, with practices that include the use of solar panels covering 25% of daily needs in the Valencia Data Centre, 100% of renewable energy in both the Primary and Secondary Data Centres in Geneva as well as cooling by circulation of water from the Lake Geneva and deployment of environmental sensors and optimization in the North American Data Centre.

Green Technology for the UN Ecosystem

Solutions for greening the UN – and the globe – require a multilateral approach encompassing all fields, including digital business and technology. As the preferred provider of shared services and digital business solutions for over 70 Clients and Partner Organizations in the UN ecosystem, UNICC has stepped up as a technology innovator.

Green ICT does not have to be an oxymoron. We want to leverage UNICC’s technical expertise to collaborate with our UN Partners and make the system better through better adoption of green technologies. 

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

New and rapidly developing technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and robotics hold incredible promise for the advancement of human welfare with huge efficiencies in UN Agency operations. Some examples of UNICC services that promote sustainability are:

  • Facilitating global participation and engagement in multilateral processes through digital diplomacy platforms.
  • Reducing the use of paper by offering an electronic signature system for the UN family, directly impacting SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG13: Climate Action.
  • Enabling dozens of organizations to continue business operations through online platforms, virtual desktops and collaboration tools, reducing the carbon footprint resulting from highly-curtailed travel and office management.

Internally, UNICC has run several campaigns for both sustainable office space and a sustainable home office, ensuring UNICC staff follow sustainability principles even when working remotely. UNICC has banned plastics from the office space, sorts all garbage for recycling, has instituted the use of reusable water bottles and provides volunteer opportunities for environmental activities.

With less than a decade until the deadline to meet the goals of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Agencies must practice due diligence and ensure alignment with sustainable practices. UNICC can play a strategic role in helping organizations achieve these goals. Through our words and our actions, we aspire to live up to the Sustainable Development Goals and support our Clients and Partner Organizations in doing the same.

Common Secure Conference 2021
Credit: UNICC

UN Cyber Security Practitioners Gather at UNICC’s 2021 Common Secure Conference

Conference Participants Share Insights on Cyber Practices and Provide Feedback on UNICC Common Secure Services

UNICC’s cyber security solutions enable the United Nations family to enhance cyber resilience by strengthening governance, architecture and operational components of Clients’ cyber security programmes.

UNICC hosts an annual Common Secure Conference, bringing UNICC’s Clients and Partner Organizations together to share intelligence on cyber practices and to provide feedback on UNICC Common Secure services.

Nearly 200 participants from 33 organizations gathered for this year’s conference, held virtually between 16 and 24 November 2021.

Thanks to all participants involved in this year’s Common Secure conference, for the opportunity to learn how other teams deal with cyber incidents and for sharing invaluable insights over potential service improvements. We will continue proving the value of the Common Secure family giving back to this great community.

Bojan Simetić, Information Security Specialist, UNICC

Common Secure Conference Agenda

The first week was open to cyber security practitioners from across UN Agencies, which includes many stakeholders and partners beyond the Common Secure membership.

The sessions were a blend of UN and cyber security vendor presentations, including speakers from Adobe, the Cloud Security Alliance, the CyberPeace Institute, Disruptive Consulting, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Spanish National Institute for Cyber Security (INCIBE), Interpol, StrangeBee and the European Union’s Computer Emergency Response Team (EU-CERT).

UNICC Common Secure members had the opportunity to provide input on UNICC’s services during various sessions in the second week, including the ‘The Future of Common Secure’ panel discussion with speakers from IAEA, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women. Partners shared good feedback on current Common Secure services and identified some areas for improvement.

Cyber security experts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) also presented on a number of cyber matters during the second week.

According to a majority of participants, the Common Secure Conference helps them improve their skills and support cyber programme development with presentations relevant to their current work. Additionally, participants appreciate the opportunity to build relations with cyber security peers from other Agencies and beyond.

UNICC Cyber Security Services

In order to best protect its Clients and Partner Organizations, UNICC offers information security services including:

  • Governance and CISO Support
  • Common Secure Threat Intel
  • Security Operations Centre (CSOC), Security Incident and Event Management (CSIEM)
  • Vulnerability Management, Phishing Simulation, Penetration Testing,
  • Incident Response and Forensics
  • Information Security Awareness
  • Infrastructure and Network Support
  • PKI Digital Identity
  • Electronic Signature
  • Secure AuthN (federated authentication services) and more.

UNICC continues to develop its experience and expertise. UNICC was awarded a 2020 (and 2017) CSO50 Award for its Common Secure Information Security services. The UN Joint Inspection Unit reviewed the state of cyber security in the UN and recommended to leverage UNICC’s services.